Sunday, May 6, 2012

Learning to live consciously (lesson in writing exams)

Alice: “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
Cheshire Cat: “That depends a good deal on where you want to go."
Alice: “It doesn’t much matter where.”
Cheshire Cat: “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go!”

Live consciously. Act deliberately.

I never stopped to think about this advice much until my TA-ing experience this year. Because of course, we live consciously! And act deliberately! We are not puppets or brainless drones. It's like telling me to keep breathing.

But I realized many times we do things without thinking about the purpose. I TA-ed for ESCI 101 which is a big intro class maxed at 150 students (at Rice, this is extreme. Only my introductory bio + biochemistry classes were this big).

When we wrote assignments and exams, we had to stop and think about the purpose. Because we were going to spend time making them. Because students were going to spend time completing them.

If you know the purpose of your actions, you can better assess the outcomes. Because if our goal was to make sure students learned some facts we wouldn't mind if everyone made A's. Because we met our purpose. This would have been failure if what we wanted was a nice bell curve.

My friend Tiffany who is now living in Wisconsin told me this which really stuck with me. She said, "I don't want to wake up and go through life with knee-jerk reactions."

I think that even if your motive is not as noble, you should be aware of reasons for your actions. Case in point:
Live actively. Don't just write in an active voice!

Have you received advice that hit you much later?
How do you live consciously? Act deliberately?